Guest Blogger and Guest Chef

contributed by Sonny Romeo

The crackling and sizzling on the stove gave way to the great Ronen Skinezes, Executive Chef of Tel Aviv’s Manta Ray restaurant, last Thursday. After much anticipation, the Chef held his cooking class at Ansley Mall Cook’s Warehouse. “It was different,” said 12-year-old Zoie Brown, “What we tasted tonight wasn’t something you would taste at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.” And it was different. We sampled everything from Eggplant Mousse to strawberries with whipped cream and Doritos.

“Our entire cuisine is different,” Chef Skinezes admitted. “We use a lot of eggplant and other vegetables, and it is challenging for a lot of our different recipes to be kosher. A lot of European cuisine requires food be shipped from outside sources but we are resourceful and use what we have available to us.” Yet it wasn’t all about the food; “In light of all the recent events surrounding Israel, we feel it is our job to share our culture. You all hear the bad press, but we want Americans to know that Israel is a wonderful place to live and to visit,” said Einat Shaul of the Israeli Consulate here in Atlanta.

Chef Skinezes prepared one dish that was a great example of Israeli fare using lots of Mediterranean vegetables and fish. The finished dish was very light and fresh tasting. The preserved lemon added a unique flavor.

Grouper Fillet with Chickpeas and Artichokes
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
  • 6 artichoke bottoms
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 pounds grouper fillet
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon preserved lemon, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Drain the chickpeas, transfer into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the chickpeas are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice the artichoke bottoms into quarters. Place in a separate saucepan and cover with water. Add kosher salt and lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and then place the fillets in the pan, skin side down, and sear for 2 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy. Turn the fish and sear for another 30 seconds. Transfer the fish fillets to an oiled baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan or a sauté pan. Add the chickpeas, artichokes, and garlic and stir for a minute. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, preserved lemon, butter, salt and pepper and cook until the butter melts and the sauce is reduced. Add the parsley and remove from the flame.

To serve, place the chickpea and artichoke stew on serving plates. Place the fish on top, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.